08 February 2023 – Leader Graham Pringle.
The outing was held at the Strandfontein Sewage Works (correct name Cape Flats Waste Water Treatment Centre) on Wednesday the 8th February 2023. Some 30 odd members and non-members attended, all of whom were keen birders. We had three overseas visitors join us, two from the UK and one from the USA.
The weather was good but became very hot and windy later in the morning when the birds sought shelter close the reeds and in some cases were difficult to see.
After the opening address at 8.00am the group was re-organised into eight suitable vehicles and the plan was to concentrate on the six Central Pans, where a good number of the water birds could be found. At the CWAC count in January these pans produced some 3800 birds which was more than a third of the total water birds counted, and so the chance of finding most of the species was good.
Interspersed in the convoy were experience birders able to point out and identify the birds for those less experienced.
Along the tar road between P6 and P7 in both Pans there were many Pied Avocets, Cape Shovelers and Little Grebes. Also on the verge was a lovely Cape Longclaw, which was quite accommodating.
Not too long after turning onto the dirt road and just before the painted building at the central hub, all the birds in P2 and P1, ahead of us, took to the air and in the midst was a raptor creating chaos. This turned out to be a Juvenile African Fish Eagle which was a great sighting to start. We had all stopped and climbed out of the cars to watch the event, and then concentrated on the very small Pan next to the road.
This was a real bonus as in this pan there were seven Fulvous Whistling Ducks, two Blue-billed Teal, Red-billed Teal, an African Swamphen, Cape Teal and Cape Shovelers. An excellent beginning!
We then proceeded between P1 and P2 and managed to see a pair of South African Shelducks and a small tern roost where there were numerous Greater-crested, a couple of Caspian and one or two Common and Sandwich Terns. We saw no small waders, and this was the case for the whole morning, with the only real waders being Black-winged Stilts.
Of interest were the hundreds of Barn Swallows in the reeds and a number of Brown-throated Martins.
Along the base of P2 we came across another tern roost but with nothing new to add. There were obviously many hundred Hartlaubs and Kelp Gulls as well as African Sacred Ibis.
As we travelled East towards the Hub between P2 and P3 we saw both Greater and Lesser Flamingos and a few Southern Pochards. By this stage the wind was picking up and the water in the pans was getting quite rough. Between P3 and P4 we saw our first male Maccoa Duck but at some distance. A little later we had a few far better sightings of the Maccoa Ducks and then on the southern edge of P4 found half a dozen Black-necked Grebes close to the shore
From there we returned to the central hub where there was nothing further of real interest and so once again travelled west between P1 and P2 with the intention of circling P1 back to the hub.
Near the north-west corner of P2 we stopped to watch a couple of Yellow-billed Kites circling low and then one landed. Everyone was focussing on the Kite when a couple of birders picked up a smaller grey raptor a few meters from the Kite and this turned out to be the Juvenile Lanner Falcon which had been reported earlier in the week. This was a real bonus for everyone, especially all those taking part in the Cape Town Birding Challenge, and was a fitting end to the morning.
As we had now circled all of the Central Pans, the planned route had now been completed, and a splinter group then decided to look for the Sand Martin which has been seen regularly in the Barn Swallow Roost between S4 and S7. They did in fact see the bird which was great for them.
All in all the outing was a success with 62 species being recorded and I’m sure that everyone taking part in the Cape Town Challenge was able to add at least one new bird to their list and in some cases a number of new birds.
My thanks must go to Daryl de Beer, Jacque Smit, Dennis & Gigi Laidler and John Magner for their personal input in finding and identifying the birds for the group and to those who provided the photographs.
Photographs by Melanie Stevens, Zoe Lunau-Johns and Penny Dichmont.
Report by by Graham Pringle.